Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Broken seesaw warms North

13.12.2001


Wetter winters could be forecast months ahead.
© ImageSource


American Geophysical Society Meeting, San Francisco, December 2001

Pressure system secrets could help long range forecasts.


The rise in levels of greenhouse gases has halted an oscillation of air pressures over the Arctic, bringing warmer, wetter winters to Northern Europe, Siberia and Alaska. The shift could get worse with increasing CO2 emissions, delegates heard this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, California.



The trend is unlikely to have a natural cause, Nathan Gillett, a climate modeller at the University of Oxford in the UK, told the conference. "It is consistent with most climate models’ response to greenhouse gases," he added.

But the cloudy winter skies over Europe may have a silver lining. Identifying the effects of the Arctic oscillation (AO) could one day enable researchers to forecast aspects of northern hemisphere weather months, even seasons ahead of time.

Like El Nino, the AO is a variation in atmospheric pressure. It seesaws between Iceland at one end and Spain and Portugal at the other. The AO’s negative phase brings higher-than-normal pressure to the polar region and lower pressure to Eurasia and North America. The positive phase brings the opposite: warmer, wetter weather to northern regions and dryer conditions to lower latitudes.

Scientists used to think that the AO was completely random. But in 1995 James Hurrell of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, showed that it actually follows a 10-year cycle and that since the 1980s the seesaw has been stuck in its positive phase1. "This has an impact on winter surface temperatures," says Hurrell.

Recent estimates suggest that the skewed AO may account for half of the warmer winter episodes and rainfall in northern Atlantic areas such as Scotland.

Working with the computer models used to forecast Britain’s weather, Gillett calculated the impact of a doubling of atmospheric CO2 levels (expected to happen by about 2040) on the AO’s intensity. He found that the additional CO2 would keep the AO in its positive phase and strengthen its effects.

Most experts agree that the skewed AO is probably caused by greenhouse gases, according to climatologist John Wallace at the University of Washington in Seattle. Although he cautions that climate models are never perfect.

High cycle

What happens to the AO in the absence of man-made perturbations, on the other hand, is open to debate. One suggestion is that increasing tropical ocean temperatures cause the phenomenon. Another proposes that long-term cycles high in the stratosphere, six to thirty miles above the Earth, are driving it.

New evidence presented at the meeting by Mark Baldwin, of Northwest Research Associates in Bellevue, Washington, suggests that fluctuations in the stratosphere’s thickness are linked to the AO.

Although the effects of the stratosphere will still be amplified by an increase in greenhouse gases, the finding is otherwise good news, says Wallace, because the frequency of the waves are known. "These stratosphere waves could make 60-day forecasts possible," he says.

What’s more, longer-term fluctuations in tropical Atlantic temperature contribute to the power of stratospheric waves, so it should be possible to predict weather seasons in advance, says Wallace. "One day we might be predicting the likelihood of a certain number of cold snaps in the coming year," he says.

References

  1. Hurrell, J. W. Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: regional temperatures and precipitation. Science, 269, 676 - 679, (1995).

TOM CLARKE | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011213/011213-11.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht A promising target in the quest for a 1-million-year-old Antarctic ice core
24.05.2018 | University of Washington

nachricht Tropical Peat Swamps: Restoration of Endangered Carbon Reservoirs
24.05.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When corals eat plastics

24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Surgery involving ultrasound energy found to treat high blood pressure

24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering

First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR

24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>